As she stood on the podium to receive her silver medal at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, Harmanpreet Kaur’s body language told you of the hurt of having missed another golden opportunity to beat Australia in a final.
Minutes later, as she gathered her thoughts to speak to the media, Harmanpreet was a lot more accepting of the result and spoke of the effect it could have on a young generation of Indian women who want to play the sport.
“I’m happy and satisfied with the way we played throughout,” Harmanpreet said after India fell short of the gold medal by nine runs. “I know we were close to winning gold, but all around our performance was great. This is the first time we got to play in this tournament and we’re happy to have won a silver medal.
“A medal is something people back home will get inspired by, and they could start playing cricket. As a team, we want to inspire young girls. Doing well on this platform will motivate a lot of people back home.”
Mooney, Gardner and Schutt lead Australia to gold in pulsating final
Tahlia McGrath plays CWG final despite testing positive for Covid-19
Even as the gold medal slipped out of their reach, India won plenty of admirers with their actions even before a ball was bowled in the final. Australian allrounder Tahlia McGrath testing positive for Covid-19 cast a shadow over her participation, even as the CWG rules deemed her fit enough to play.
The toss had to be delayed in the wake of this development, but Harmanpreet later explained the sequence of events that led to McGrath’s inclusion in Australia’s XI.
“They informed us before the toss,” Harmanpreet said. “That was something not in our control. The CWG had to take a decision and we were okay with it since she [Tahlia McGrath] wasn’t very ill, so we decided to play. We had to show sportsman spirit. I’m happy we didn’t say no to Tahlia, it [missing the final] would have been very hard-hitting for her.”
Once they took the field, India played aggressively, like they had all tournament. They attacked with the bat to score 150-plus in four of their five matches, and in the absence of veterans like Jhulan Goswami and Shikha Pandey, a young bowling attack showed India’s future is in skilled hands.
Renuka Singh, in particular, was menacing with her late inswing. Offspinner Sneh Rana handled high-pressure situations with maturity, while Deepti Sharma and Meghna Singh were also impressive in patches.
In the grand finale, India’s fielding was top notch. Radha Yadav pulled off a superb run-out at the bowler’s end – back-flicking the ball between her legs during her follow through – to dismiss the dangerous Meg Lanning, and then took a diving catch at point to dismiss McGrath. There was also a one-handed stunner from Deepti and a catch running back by Meghna, all of which contributed to India restricting Australia to 161 for 8.
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“If you want to beat this Australian team, you have to field well,” Harmanpreet said. “If you give them easy runs, they can easily take the game away. We discussed it in the team meeting and Radha set the example for us.
“The effort we put up today is something we wanted to do. I know the last 2-3 overs [in the chase] were not in our favour but throughout the game, the way we played was outstanding to watch. We’ve been working on our fielding for a long time. I’m happy with the way we fielded today.”
During the chase, India lost two early wickets but Harmanpreet and Jemimah Rodrigues added 96 to revive India’s gold-medal hopes, before they lost their last eight wickets for 34 runs.
“After losing two crucial wickets, the way Jemi and I batted was much needed at that time,” Harmanpreet said. “You need to hold your nerves. We were nearly there. Maybe if Pooja [Vastrakar] or I were around, we could’ve won the game. But that is part of the game; sometimes, some things you can’t control. It is great learning for us.
“I am someone who is always looking for one more batter in the side. Unfortunately, we’re working on that. Once we get that, this thing [collapsing] will go away. Every time in big finals, we make the same mistakes again and again [with the bat], that is something we have to improve. We don’t do these mistakes in the league phase or in bilateral. That is blocking our mind somewhere.”
When asked to sum up where they are as a team, Harmanpreet echoed Lanning’s thoughts that India weren’t far away from becoming a dominant force.
“Yes definitely, I know we could’ve easily won gold, but something is better than nothing, at least we got silver,” Harmanpreet said. “We deserved it for so much hard work. If not gold, we’re satisfied with what we got today.
“[As a team] we are on the right track, we just need to keep working hard. As Lanning said, we’re not far from dominating across formats.”